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Lift Every Voice and Sing and The Harp (922 hits)

My View From Harlem – Augusta Savage – The Harp

At Howard University, when we sing the Black National Anthem

we raise our clinched fist with pride.

That’s said, Augusta Savage was so inspired by this piece created by James Weldon Johnson, 1871 - 1938, that she created the Harp for the 1939 World’s Fair. At the fair, this piece of iconic sculpture stood in front of the Center for American Art in section 2.

Sadly when the fair ended this piece was destroyed. The excuse given was that theire was no place to store or for it to be seen.

However, I have to ask for something so important to our race of people, why didn’t the Smithsonian Institute, The Museum of Metropolitan Art in New in New York and alike step in???

I leave the answer for you judgement.

This past Summer I went to the very place where the Harp proudly stood to begin my pilgrimage to recreate this piece of civil rights arts and hopefully donate it to the new African American Museum in D.C.

I already have a sculpture in mind and have discussed this undertaking.

I launched my pilgrimage at my my Alma Mater, Howard University and a very special thank you to Ayo Sekai. PhD Candidate, for posing and feeling the need and importance of this undertaking.

Augusta Savage..

Artist, Civil Rights Activist, Sculptor, Educator (1892–1962)

Name Augusta Savage Occupation Artist, Civil Rights Activist, Sculptor, Educator Birth Date February 29, 1892 Death Date March 26, 1962 Education Cooper Union Place of Birth Green Cove Springs, Florida Place of Death New York, New York AKA Augusta Christine Savage Augusta Christine Fells Augusta Christine Fells Savage Augusta C. Savage

Trailblazing Career in Art

Sculptor Augusta Savage was one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance as well as an influential activist and arts educator.

Born in Florida in 1892, Augusta Savage began creating art as a child by using the natural clay found in her hometown.

After attending Cooper Union in New York City, she made a name for herself as a sculptor during the Harlem Renaissance and was awarded fellowships to study abroad. Savage later served as a director for the Harlem Community Center and created the monumental work The Harp for the 1939 New York World's Fair. She spent most of her later years in Saugerties, New York, before her death from cancer in 1962.

Background and Early Life

Augusta Savage was born Augusta Christine Fells on February 29, 1892, in Green Cove Springs, Florida. Part of a large family, she began making art as a child, using the natural clay found in her area. Skipping school at times, she enjoyed sculpting animals and other small figures. But her father, a Methodist minister, didn't approve of this activity and did whatever he could to stop her. Savage once said that her father "almost whipped all the art out of me."

Despite her father's objections, Savage continued to make sculptures.

When the family moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, in 1915, she encountered a new challenge: a lack of clay. Savage eventually got some materials from a local potter and created a group of figures that she entered in a local county fair. Her work was well received, winning a prize and along the way the support of the fair's superintendent, George Graham Currie. He encouraged her to study art despite the racism of the day.

Trailblazing Career..

After a failed attempt to establish herself as a sculptor in Jacksonville, Florida, Savage moved to New York City in the early 1920s.

Although she struggled financially throughout her life, she was admitted to study art at Cooper Union, which did not charge tuition. Before long, the school gave her a scholarship to help with living expenses as well. Augusta Savage excelled, finishing her course work in three years instead of the usual four.

While at Cooper Union, she had an experience that would greatly influence her life and work: In 1923, Savage applied to a special summer program to study art in France, but was rejected because of her race. She took the rejection as a call to action, and sent letters to the local media about the program selection committee's discriminatory practices.

Augusta Savage's story made headlines in many newspapers, although it wasn't enough to change the group's decision. One committee member, Herman MacNeil, regretted the ruling and invited Savage to further hone her craft at his Long Island studio.

Agusta Savage soon started to make a name for herself as a portrait sculptor. Her works from this time include busts of such prominent African Americans as W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey. Savage was considered to be one of the leading artists of the Harlem Renaissance, a preeminent African-American literary and artistic movement of the 1920s and '30s.

Eventually, following a series of family crises, Savage got her opportunity to study abroad. She was awarded a Julius Rosenwald fellowship in 1929, based in part on a bust of her nephew entitled Gamin.

Augusta Savage spent time in Paris, where she exhibited her work at the Grand Palais. She earned a second Rosenwald fellowship to continue her studies for another year, and a separate Carnegie Foundation grant allowed her to travel to other European countries.

Agusta Savage returned the United States while the Great Depression was in full swing. With portrait commissions hard to come by, she began teaching art and established the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in 1932. In mid-decade, she became the first black artist to join what was then known as the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors.

Augusta Savage assisted many burgeoning African-American artists, including Jacob Lawrence and Norman Lewis, and lobbied the Works Projects Administration (WPA) to help other young artists find work during this time of financial crisis. She also helped found the Harlem Artists' Guild, which led to a directorial position at the WPA's Harlem Community Center..

World's Fair Commission...

Augusta Savage was then commissioned to create a sculpture for the 1939 New York World's Fair. Inspired by the words of the poem "Lift Every Voice and Sing," by James Weldon Johnson (who had also previously modeled for Savage), she created The Harp.

Standing 16 feet tall, the work reinterpreted the musical instrument to feature 12 singing African-American youth in graduated heights as its strings, with the harp's sounding board transformed into an arm and a hand. In the front, a kneeling young man offered music in his hands.

Although considered one of her major works, The Harp was destroyed at the end of the fair.

Having lost her directorial position at the Harlem Community Center while working on The Harp, Savage sought to create other art centers in the area.

One notable work from this period was The Pugilist (1942)—a confident and defiant figure who appears prepared to take on whatever might come his way—but she grew frustrated over her struggles to reestablish herself. In 1945, she left the city and moved to a farm in Saugerties, New York.

Later Years, Death and Legacy

Augusta Savage spent most of her remaining years in the solitude of small-town life. She taught children in summer camps, dabbled in writing and continued with her art as a hobby.

Augusta Savage was married three times: The first was in 1907 to John T. Moore, with whom she had her lone child, Irene. Moore died some years afterward. Around 1915, she married carpenter James Savage, a union that ended in divorce. In 1923, she married Robert Lincoln Poston, an associate of Marcus Garvey's, but was again widowed when he passed away the following year.

When Augusta Savage became ill late in life, she moved back to New York City to be with her daughter and her family.

Augusta Savage died of cancer on March 26, 1962, in New York City. While she was all but forgotten at the time of her death, Savage is remembered today as a great artist, activist and arts educator, serving as an inspiration to the many that she taught, helped and encouraged.

Lift Every Voice and sing..

James Weldon Johnson, 1871 - 1938

Lift every voice and sing,

Till earth and heaven ring,

Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;

Let our rejoicing rise

High as the list’ning skies,

Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.

Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,

Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;

Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,

Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,

Bitter the chast’ning rod,

Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;

Yet with a steady beat,

Have not our weary feet

Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?

We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.

We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,

Out from the gloomy past,

Till now we stand at last

Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,

God of our silent tears,

Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;

Thou who hast by Thy might,

Led us into the light,

Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,

Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;

Shadowed beneath Thy hand,

May we forever stand,

True to our God,

True to our native land
Posted By: Victorio Loubriel
Tuesday, November 22nd 2016 at 2:19PM
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